When don’t you need probate?

22 March 2021

The term probate refers to a legal document that is sometimes needed to deal with someone's assets after they have died. Whether Probate is needed to deal with these assets depends on a few factors. This includes the value of the assets in the estate, how these assets were owned and who's inheriting them.

Some assets and personal possessions can be sold or transferred without needing probate.

If the person who died left a Will, the executor named in the Will is responsible for dealing with the estate assets. If there isn't a Will, the next of kin will be responsible as the administrator of the estate.

If probate is needed, this means the executor or administrator needs to apply to the Probate Registry for a legal document, giving them authority to deal with the estate assets. This document is called a Grant of Probate if there's a Will, or a grant of letters of administration if there isn't.

When don't you need probate?

In some cases, you don't need probate if the person who died only owned a small amount of money and didn't own any property. If you're asked by a bank or any other institution for a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration, then it's likely you will need probate.

If the deceased did own a property either in their sole name or as tenants in common, then probate will be required to sell or transfer it. If they owned a property as joint tenants with someone who's still alive, it passes automatically to the survivor on death. Probate isn't needed for this. In this case a copy of the death certificate should be registered on the property title.

If the value of a certain asset is less than £5,000, the bank or organisation holding that asset may allow it to be distributed without probate.

These organisations and assets can include:

  • Banks
  • Building societies
  • National Savings and Investments
  • Trade union and friendly society death benefits

However, these organisations aren't obliged to release any money or assets without probate. They may choose not to do so if complications are likely to occur (perhaps if there are a large number of beneficiaries).

In practice banks, share registrars, insurance companies and other financial institutions each set their own limits for probate. A bank or financial institution may agree to accept signed indemnities instead of probate. These limits can vary from £5,000 all the way to £50,000. For more information, see bank limits for probate.

If an asset is held in a trust, it shouldn't require probate. Life policies are often written in trust for the benefit of others and are payable to the named beneficiary. Similarly, pension schemes sometimes pay a lump sum ‘death in service’ benefit. This is also held in trust and payable at the discretion of the pension trustees. As such it does not form part of the deceased’s estate.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.

We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

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